Golem Packs ‘Phoenix,’ ‘Love Is Strange’ and ‘Difret’ for San Sebastian (EXCLUSIVE)

Top Spanish arthouse distributor readies seven titles for Spanish Festival

Phoenix Toronto Film Festival

SAN SEBASTIAN – Having acquired in its latest buys both Israel Horovitz’s “My Old Lady“ and “Still Alice,” helmed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Golem, Spain’s top arthouse distributor, will hit San Sebastian with seven titles, three in its main competition.

Four pick-ups are unannounced, at least by in press terms: Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix,” a buy from The Match Factory, “Love Is Strange,” from Ira Sachs, and “Difret,” by Zeresenay Bernhane Mehari.

Also on Golem’s distribution slate is Laurent Cantet’s “Return to Ithaca,” acquired from Funny Balloons.

Announced San Sebastian titles include Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Winter Sleep.” The buys add to another four titles at the Basque fest. The fact that two more play in official competition, in their European premiere – François Ozon’s “The New Girlfriend,” sold by Films Distribution, and Susanne Bier’s “Second Chance,” acquired from TrustNordisk – confirms that Spain is still buying.

But prices paid by Spanish artpic distributors have plunged in the last decade, the number of titles bought is down. A year-on-year 1.5% rise in total box office in Spain to €337.7 million ($443.7 million) through August 2014, per Rentrak, still suggests Spain’s box office bottle is half empty, being based on an extraordinary €56.2 million ($73.8 million) for “Spanish Affair.”

All of which makes San Sebastian Festival more, not less, important for the Spanish distribution sector with a prize, in some cases, proving a substantial boost to audiences.

With TV buys, whether pay or free-to-air, few-and-far between on arthouse titles in Spain, and DVD/VOD decimated by piracy, Golem’s buys were predicated on the movies theatrical potential, said Josetxo Moreno, Golem topper. Golem’s ownership of five theaters, spread between Madrid and the northern cities of Pamplona and Bilbao at least allows it to, he added.

For Moreno, regarding Spain’s arthouse market attrition, several factors are in play: Older baby boomers go less to the cinema. But is has not been replaced by younger generations, which has other leisure activities, consumes more movies without authorization, and, when it comes to audiovisual content, often prefer U.S. series to movies.

Of San Sebastian impact, Moreno pointed to Ozon’s San Sebastian Golden Shell winner “In the House.” The film, like his San Sebastian competition contenders this year, he contended, was sufficiently open arthouse to allow a plaudit at San Sebastian to impact its final B.O.trawl.

Following its top prize at the Spanish fest, Golem set a November release date. “House” went on to gross €1.6 million ($2.1 million) in Spain.

Buys reflect the policy of following directors: “It gone well for us,” Moreno said.

“Winter Sleep” will be released on 18 copes, “Love is Strange,” a Nov. bow, on 40-50, Moreno said. “That’s the prunt run we’re moving at for titles which are attractive but where we’re not seeking play dates in theaters at shopping malls.”